After more than 100 visits by Houston police in the past year, state and county officials are fed up with the former Skylane Apartments at Richmond and Hazard.
The Harris County attorney's office filed suit against Fat Property, LLC for operating a building complex known for "habitually harboring criminal activity" ranging from drug sales to aggravated assaults, with the occasional report of gunfire. The lawsuit says the company "knowingly tolerates" the apparently ongoing behavior.
According to court documents, county attorney Vince Ryan wants the owners to post a bond of between $5,000 and $10,000 while they clean up the reported mess. If the troubles persist, the real estate firm will lose the bond and have the location shuttered for a full year.
"By no means am I an absentee landlord . . . It's hard not to take the lawsu it personally."
Fat Property has won acclaim for revitalizing apartment complexes throughout the region, earning itself a 2012 Swamplot award for clearing the "condom wrappers and needles" from a once-derelict building in Midtown. After successfully revamping two other Skylane Apartments on West Alabama, the company was approached by the bank owning the third Skylane on Richmond and Hazard.
"When we bought it a few years ago, this complex was a million times worse than the Midtown building — just filled with people squatting and shooting up," Cody Lutsch of Fat Property tells CultureMap. The company head was in the process of personally removing a problem tenant on Monday, Lutsch says.
"From the beginning, if we find out people are up to something, they're out immediately," he says, adding that nearly every tenant has been replaced since Fat Property purchased the complex. All 42 units have been refurbished.
Lutsch says he recently met with county attorneys about a short list of trouble-making renters, almost all of whom already have been booted from the complex or have evictions pending. The county recommended 10 improvements, and with the exception of a minor fencing issue, all the changes have been made according to Lutsch. A full-time security team now roams the property.
"By no means am I an absentee landlord. I'm at our properties every day dealing with issues directly," Lutsch says. "It's hard not to take the lawsuit personally."
Harris County assistant attorney Celena Vinson, who is leading the suit, did not respond to CultureMap's request for comment.